International Air Services

Aviophobia is the fear of flying. Not to make light of it, but next time you reach for the Calmex tablets before climbing onto an international flight, just consider statistics released by IATA, the International Air Transport Association. In the whole world, in 2014, there was one accident1 for every 4.4 million jet flights, and only 12 fatal accidents of all types of aircraft in 38 million flights. In real terms, the statistic is 641 fatalities in 3.3 billion journeys.2 Not a bad safety record.

Indeed, South African civilian air transport has suffered only one incident in the past 30 years – and that had nothing to do with the usual culprits: equipment or technical failure, pilot error or the crew, or sabotage, or terrorists. SAA Flight 295, ‘Helderberg’, disappeared over the northeast coast of Mauritius on 27 November 1987, and controversy has raged ever since as to why it burst into flames miles high in the sky.3 All aboard were lost.

So, that exceptional exception apart, South African air travel has a clear record. In all probability, South Africa handles more international flights than any other African country – in short, our carriers have highly rated cockpit crew, and excellent safety records.

The International Air Services Act 1993 regulates and controls affairs concerning air services operating internationally to and from the Republic. It does this, partly, by way of the International Air Services Council – which has, through its officers, wide powers of investigation and enquiry.

A. The Council

  1. The Council may, for the purposes of any proceedings before it (including adjudicating on applications for an international air service licence) direct any person to appear before it and/or to produce any book, document or thing. Any person who fails to comply with this summons commits an offence.4

  2. It is also an offence to:
    • fail to remain in attendance at the proceedings;5
    • refuse to be sworn in, or affirmed as a witness;6
    • refuse to answer any questions.7
  3. It is an offence to furnish false information for the purposes of any application, representations, or interrogation in terms of the Act.8

B. Licences

  1. It is an offence to use (or attempt to use) an aircraft to operate an international air service except under, and in accordance with, the conditions of an international air service licence issued by the Council.9

  2. The licence must be kept in a safe place, and produced to any authorised person for inspection. It is an offence to fail in these obligations.10

  3. It is an offence to forge, alter or add anything to a licence, permit or other document issued under the Act.11

  4. It is an offence to:
    • use a licence, permit or other document issued under the Act if you are not the holder thereof;12
    • allow another person to use a licence or permit or other document.13
  5. The licensee commits an offence if it fails:
    • to furnish the council, within the prescribed period, with the prescribed statistical information;14 and
    • notify the council in writing of any (prescribed) change to the operation of the international air service concerned, or any part thereof, at least 14 days before such change is affected.15
  6. The Council may exempt an operator from the need to obtain a licence, if it is operating an international air service on a non-profit basis for social welfare, charity, salvage (on humanitarian grounds) or saving life. It is a criminal offence to use an aircraft in contravention of the terms of such an exemption.16
  1. At least, where the hull – i.e. the plane – is lost/destroyed. 

  2. Reproduced in – ‘Think African Jets are flying coffins? These numbers will prove you wrong’. 

  3. The internet is awash with comment. Go Google. 

  4. Section 12(3) read with section 12(1) and section 40(1)(a). 

  5. Section 40(1)(a) read with section 12(1). 

  6. Section 40(1)(a) read with section 12(3) or section 17(3)(d). 

  7. Section 40(1)(a) read with section 12(3) or section 17(3(d). 

  8. Section 40(1)(f) read with section 12(3) or section 17(3)(d). 

  9. Section 13(1) read with section 40(1)(b). 

  10. Section 22(1)(c) read with section 40(1)(c). 

  11. Section 40(1)(d). 

  12. Section 40(1)(e). 

  13. Section 40(1)(eA). 

  14. Section 22(1)(b) read with section 40(1)(c). 

  15. Section 22(1)(d) read with section 40(1)(c). 

  16. Section 40(1)(g) read with section 13(7).